Choosing a Pasta Shape, Part 1: Penne with Bell Peppers and Olives

Pasta comes in many shapes. The most common include spaghetti, penne, tagliatelle, orecchiette, and lasagne. Apart from fresh pasta and dried pasta, one of the main distinctions is between ‘short’ pasta such as penne and orecchiette, and ‘long’ pasta such … Continue reading Choosing a Pasta Shape, Part 1: Penne with Bell Peppers and Olives

Grilled Octopus with Octopus Sponge, Bell Pepper Coulis and Romanesco

This is another dish that came out of the collaboration with Teun and Albert. I wanted Teun to try octopus sous-vide, and I remember how much I liked the char-grilled octopus at La Madia in Sicily. Although we ended up doing something different, our original idea was to do something along the lines of the octopus dish from La Madia. That dish featured a rock. Due to timing constraints (and also because the rock at La Madia wasn’t very tasty even though it looked great), we decided to go for a soft octopus sponge cake instead.

Recently, Paul of That Other Cooking Blog wrote about a microwave brioche. This is a trick that was originally devised by Ferran Adrià of El Bulli. A batter with a lot of eggs is siphoned into paper cups with nitrous oxide and then cooked for 30 seconds in a microwave oven to get a sponge cake. As octopus leaks a lot of juices when cooked, we thought it would be nice to reduce those juices to a thick octopus syrup and use that to flavor a sponge. We thought it would pair well with a bell pepper coulis, and when we realised our menu needed more vegetables we also included some oven-roasted romanesco (green cauliflower). Continue reading “Grilled Octopus with Octopus Sponge, Bell Pepper Coulis and Romanesco”

Spaghetti alla Chitarra con Ragù di Agnello e Peperoni (Fresh Pasta with Lamb and Bell Pepper Sauce)

Next time I’ll be visiting the Italian region of Abruzzo I’ll have to watch out, because I’m cheating in this post. Every region of Italy has its own pasta shapes, and for Abruzzo this is the Spaghetti alla Chitarra, also called Maccheroni alla Chitarra. In other regions this type of pasta is called tonnarelli or troccoli.

Spaghetti alla Chitarra are thick square fresh egg noodles, made from semolina flour and with a thickness and width of 2 to 3 mm (1/12 to 1/8 inch). They are called “alla chitarra” because they are traditionally made with a guitar-like device, which has a wooden frame strung with metal wires. The pasta dough is first rolled out with a rolling pin, then arranged on top of the metal wires, and then a rolling pin is used to press the pasta through the wires and thus cut it. You guessed it: chitarra is the Italian word for guitar. The device helps to give the pasta a rough surface, ideal for sauce to cling to.

I don’t own such a device, but since I do own a tagliolini attachment for my pasta roller with a width of 2-3 mm, I figured I can cheat and prepare something very close to spaghetti alla guitarra using the attachment for tagliolini. To get square pasta, the thickness of the dough should also be 2-3 mm. Spaghetti alla chitarra should be served very much al dente, with a lot of bite to them, so it is important not to overcook them.

One of the traditional ways to serve spaghetti alla chitarra in Abruzzo is with a ragù of lamb and bell peppers, flavored with garlic and bay leaf, and that is what I dressed the spaghetti alla chitarra with. It turned out wonderfully and I will definitely make this again. The ragù is made with fresh tomatoes and has a very elegant taste. Continue reading “Spaghetti alla Chitarra con Ragù di Agnello e Peperoni (Fresh Pasta with Lamb and Bell Pepper Sauce)”

Hot-Smoked Scallops with Roasted Bell Peppers

When I mentioned hot-smoked scallops, Conor was intrigued. And so we decided to make this as an appetizer before the lobster and couscous, combined with roasted peppers because that is such a lovely combination. You could also add pea puree to that, but since we were already having peas with the couscous we left that out. Now I’ve blogged about hot-smoked scallops and about roasting peppers separately before, but Conor made such great pictures that I just had to share them with you. And I have not told you about the combination before, so there. Without further ado, here is how to … Continue reading Hot-Smoked Scallops with Roasted Bell Peppers

Venison and Bell Pepper Stew

Venison, bell pepper and paprika are a good combination that make for a very flavorful stew. If you can’t find venison, lamb is a good substitute. I served it with roasted parsnips and mashed potatoes. The recipe is very similar to the venison and bell pepper ragù I posted a few days ago. In fact, only the end of the preparation is different. Ingredients For 6 servings 900 grams (2 lbs) venison stewing meat, in cubes about 250 ml (1 cup) warm water or venison stock 3 red bell peppers 1 Tbsp hot paprika (or 2 tsp sweet paprika and 1 tsp … Continue reading Venison and Bell Pepper Stew

Spaghettini with Venison and Bell Pepper Ragù (Spaghettini al Cervo e Peperoni)

The pasta course of a recent dinner at my favorite Italian restaurant in Amsterdam, Bussia, was spaghettini (angel hair spaghetti) with a spicy ragù of venison and crunchy red bell pepper. I really liked the combination of flavors, and it inspired me to create this pasta dish as well as a venison stew about which I will post soon. It is not a classic Italian dish (at least not that I have ever heard of), but it is in Italian style. The use of paprika gives it a touch of Hungary as well. I started the ragù with cubed meat … Continue reading Spaghettini with Venison and Bell Pepper Ragù (Spaghettini al Cervo e Peperoni)

Penne with Bell Peppers and Pancetta

This is a quick and simple weekday pasta dish that came about when I wanted to make Penne with Bell Peppers and Salami, but only had pancetta available. You could also think of this as Penne all’Amatriciana with added bell peppers. This dish turned out to be better balanced than the version with salami, as that is a bit high in acidity. But the most important thing is that you get a lot of flavor for not a lot of work. Ingredients For 2 servings 2 red bell peppers 100 grams (4 oz) of pancetta, diced 150-200 grams (1/3-1/2 pound) … Continue reading Penne with Bell Peppers and Pancetta

Pasta with Lamb, Vegetables, Honey & Thyme

I used to make this Italian-French fusion dish that I had invented myself on a regular basis, but hadn’t for a while as I was concentrating on more traditional dishes. I wanted to make something with lamb, remembered this dish and realised that I hadn’t blogged about it yet. So I made it again and decided to make it again more often since it is very flavorful. You can make this with any tender lamb such as lamb loin, lamb tenderloin or leg of a young lamb. Ingredients For 2-3 servings 300 grams (2/3 pound) boneless tender lamb 150 grams … Continue reading Pasta with Lamb, Vegetables, Honey & Thyme